Poole's NBA Western Conference midseason player awards
NBA Western Conference midseason player awards
The first half of this NBA season was noteworthy mostly for four things, the first three being the paucity of coaching changes, the many injuries to marquee players and reiteration of Western Conference superiority. The fourth is the continued ascent of the already stratospheric Kevin Durant... Today, we hand out player awards. Coming tomorrow -- team awards.
MVP -- Kevin Durant
Oklahoma City's 6-foot-10 "small" forward has responded to the loss of his star sidekick, point guard Russell Westbrook, by laying waste to all in his path. In the 14 games since Westbrook's latest disablement, KD has averaged 36.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists. He's had a 46-point game, two 48-point outbursts and that unforgettable 54-point torching of the Warriors.Having reaffirmed the excellence of an OKC squad thought to be vulnerable, Durant is our midseason MVP for the league's strongest and deepest conference. Among the runners-up were Spurs PG Tony Parker, Blazers PG Damian Lillard and Blazers PF LaMarcus Aldridge.
Coach -- Terry Stotts
Portland's defense leaves much to be desired, but its offense is a thing of beauty. The Blazers make exquisite use of motion and cutting, with crisp passing and deadly 3-point shooting.
Defense -- Serge Ibaka
There were other options, and I've noticed the work of PF Anthony Davis (Pelicans) and C DeAndre Jordan (Clippers). Ibaka does what they do, and it has more impact on his team.
Rookie -- Trey Burke
The Kings believe they have a player in SG Ben McLemore, but the Jazz believe they found a leader in Burke. After missing the first 12 games with a broken finger, he slid into the starting lineup. He'll stay there as long as he's healthy.
Most Improved -- DeMarcus Cousins
Truly gifted but still combustible, Cousins finally seems to understand how good he can be, and what it means to his team. There are nights when he's the best big man in the NBA. Nobody benefited more from Sacramento's acquisition of SF Rudy Gay.
Sixth Man -- Jamal Crawford
A lot of guys come off the bench and shoot. Some guys actually score. A few come in and scare opponents. This guy does all three, for a contending team, when it matters most. The ex-Warrior leads all NBA players in fourth-quarter scoring. That's a lot of daggers.
He's quicker and faster than you think. He jumps higher than you imagine. He pulls up for the 3. He drives. He stops on a dime and steps back. Opponents know Harden is clever, and he still tricks 'em. The Beard puts on a show every night, and it usually leads to victories.
Best Big Man Hiding in Plain Sight -- Nikola Pekovic
More than the hairy, thick-necked center playing alongside Kevin Love, Big Pek puts up numbers and leaves welts. He is that beast that so punishes opponents they are weakened for the next game.
Quiet As It's Kept -- Dirk Nowitzki
The future Hall of Famer still gets his 20 points, but it seems he has, at age 35, practically retired from the art of rebounding. The 7-footer, who posted at least 30 double-doubles for seven straight seasons, nabbed his second two nights ago.
Best Shooter Warriors Fans Might Remember -- Marco Belinelli
Another ex-Warrior flourishes in another uniform. Former Warriors GM Chris Mullin drafted Marco in 2007, believing he'd come over from Italy and develop into a long-range sniper. Don Nelson couldn't stand Bellinelli, so he was dismissed. He now leads the league in 3-point shooting percentage.